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Human Dignity in a Broken World, Two Book Reviews

Shalom Sistas, by Osheta Moore

I read this book on Saturday evening (if you want to read a lot, have surgery and have friends who bring you books, that really helps). Loved it.

I don’t know that Osheta would use the words human dignity, but that’s what shalom is about – peacemaking, peace building, relationships of healing and hope. And the only way to do that is to offer one another dignity. Her book is an honest and brave siren call to live in our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces with courage. I heard Osheta speak recently and loved her combination of passion for the hard work of pursuing justice with the freedom to enjoy simplicity, like an afternoon at the dog park. She offers 12 ways for women to actively and intentionally be peacemakers in our communities.

I love this quote, especially because I have experienced the truth of it. Peace is not passive and it is not an end goal, it is a way of life. “Peace is fierce—it has to be, because violence and discord won’t go down without a fight. Those who wield peace in the face of the world’s violence do it fiercely.”

 

Perfectly Human, nine months with Cerian, by Sarah C. Williams, PhD in philosophy and a professor at Regent College.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Plough Publishing.

I read this book in one weepy afternoon post-surgery. (Books make great post-surgery gifts, in case you have someone heading in for a procedure). My publisher gave me this one while I was at their offices last week. It is heartbreaking and beautiful, a mother’s love story and ringing testimony to the value of every single human life.

After a devastating diagnosis declared her unborn baby would not survive, Sarah and her husband choose to carry the pregnancy to term anyway. This has a terrifying and painful impact on her body and their family, but it also profoundly changes them for good as they declare with her body and with their baby, the worth of a life. What makes up a human life? How is worth determined?

Not everyone will agree with their choice, but that doesn’t matter. Few of us agree with each other about almost anything (American political situation, anyway?). What matters, is this is one family’s story and testament to beauty and life, and it is stunning.

Here is another review in Christianity Today.

And Sarah also wrote in the Huffington Post about her experience.

The Day My Heart Grew Three Sizes

I’m like the Grinch.

September 27, Dr. D called and told me I had cancer and my heart grew three sizes that day.

It had already been growing exponentially since May while my family faced a private pain, since 2015, since living abroad, since loving refugees.

I don’t think my heart was as small as the Grinch’s was to begin with, but neither am I certain it was all that much bigger.

It is so easy to judge someone else, to criticize a choice, to doubt an intention, to question a behavior. So easy to not see people with compassion, to not turn to mercy first.

Three days after my cancer diagnosis, I drove to church and parked in the absolute closest spot to the front door that wasn’t a handicapped spot. I know we are supposed to park far and sit close. I was feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, and alone and I just parked there.

My mom was with me and I said, “#blamethecancer.” Mostly to laugh, but partly in seriousness.

She said, “You just never know what is going on for someone.”

#sotrue

**

Yesterday, five days post surgery, I went for a walk. Sunday morning, cold, snowy, quiet, crunching boots. I walked about as fast as a snail. A man with a puppy passed me. He’s seen me running almost every day for the past few months and here I was, still in my pajamas, inching my way down the road. I wondered what was happening in his life lately and how he was doing. We smiled and greeted each other. I felt a warmth bubble up in my chest, like a love balloon.

It sounds so dorky, cheesey, cliché. But I loved the man and his puppy. Walking together, sniffing all the sniffy things, crunching in the snow, cheeks pink from cold.

I don’t know what was going on for him. Maybe everything was going alright in his life and heart and home. Maybe he had received a piece of earth-shattering news. Maybe he was in between, like most of us, partly whole and partly broken.

But a love balloon went up from my chest, across the street, and popped over his head. He doesn’t know that happened. That’s okay.

**

As I walked past houses, I thought about what happened behind the windows. This home lost a teenage son to suicide. This home has breast cancer. This home lost their teenage son to suicide, the other boy’s best friend. This home struggles to pay bills. This home has an adult child with special needs. This home is filled with refugees and I don’t know if they could even name all they have lost. Some of the homes I don’t know but I can imagine. Loneliness, anger, fear, anxiety.

We are the walking wounded.

**

Walking through these wounding things can make us bitter and angry.

Or it can grow our hearts three sizes in one day.

I hope your heart grows. I hope, when someone roars ahead of you in the parking lot or when someone ignores you at a party or when someone speaks abruptly to you, that you choose empathy, that you pop love balloons over them.

Because you just never know what private pain someone is nursing, or what secret delight.

You just never know.

And I want to be big-hearted. I want my own griefs and pains to make space in my heart for those of others, the known and the unknown.

It was a lovely, healing walk.

 

Does this all sound really dorky?

#blamethecancer

(how long can I use that to excuse whacko behavior?)

By |November 12th, 2018|Categories: cancer|Tags: , , , |8 Comments

My Thyroid Cancer, Emotions and the Photo

I don’t want to gross anyone out by a sudden pop-up on Instagram or Facebook of my insides but lots of people asked to see the tumor photo. So I’m posting it here.

Talk about vulnerability.

Showing off my innards.

That long string is not a hair, as my husband tried to tease me in my post-surgery drug-induced delirium. Its a stitch. I promise.

I have a wide range of emotions when I look at the picture.

Awe, the body really is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Humbled by human fragility.

Glad, that Dr. D took me seriously and snapped the photo and also that he and my other docs took the lump seriously and are good doctors.

Sad, that the good thyroid is gone.

Mad, to be honest, because we were doing just fine, my thyroid and I and now my body is out of whack, at least for a while.

Relieved, surprised (look the size of that thing!), and still kinda in shock that this is my body. My cancer body.

Thankful for faith. Some people say those of us with faith are weak and leaning on crutches. I say, “Amen to that.” Life hurts, loving people is scary. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a refuge to run to.

Thankful for community. For all the doctors and nurses who love me and who are begging to see the photo (you guys are hilarious). For all who have sent messages or cancer sucks mugs or soft blankets and socks and treats and flowers and lotion and tea and prayers and more.

Dizzy, oh wait no, that’s just the drugs talking. Because yeah, I’m on a lot of drugs now, so sure the emotions could be coming from one of the 10-16 pills a day I’m taking.

Amazing, how one photo can call up all that. Anyway.

Here’s the first of many rounds of daily pills (aka actual cancer candy) and then below is the thyroid.

Do not scroll down if you don’t want to see.

 

Not too hard to see which side is messed up, huh?

A Goodbye Letter to My Thyroid

Dear Thyroid,

This is not your fault.

You have done nothing wrong. You work just fine and you’ve worked just fine for forty years now.

You keep me from being too cold or too hot, you keep my hair from falling out and my body from shrinking or growing abnormally. You help me maintain emotional stability (my husband might question your total efficacy on this point) and keep my bones from crumbling. You keep my heart rate steady and my period regular. You kept me from being too tired or not tired enough and you keep my hands from trembling and my eyelids from twitching. You help my memory, regulate my fertility (thanks for the three delightful children), and keep my muscles from becoming overly stiff. Oh, and who can forget, thank you for your contribution to regular bowel movements.

Basically, you’ve kept my body at a reasonably functional level and I barely knew you existed.

And now? Now, poor dear perfect thyroid, we must part ways. I don’t blame you, this isn’t your fault. Some kind of alien creature has taken up residence in my body and it decided you looked like the best home around. Doctor D has to remove the alien before it spreads around and in that process, he will have to remove you, too.

I’m sorry.

I will bounce back. I’ll be on the rebound, as they say, and will turn to replacement thyroid hormones. I hope you don’t feel bad about being so easily replaced, just know I’d rather have you. But I can’t.

I wish we could have stayed together for all time. Alas. I will go on living (barring an unforeseen problem during surgery, I guess there are no guarantees, right?) and you will go to the pathology lab for further testing.

I did ask Doctor D if I could keep you, or have you back later.

He said no. Some blah-blah about pathology tests and hazardous waste.

I asked him to take a picture of you and he agreed, so, there’s that.

It is weird to think of part of my body being removed, being separated from me.

I mean, I’ve had three humans inside me and they all came out, but they weren’t me. They were just inside me. You, thyroid, are part of me. And now you have to die. Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but that just feels weird and not a good weird.

So anyway, thank you and I’m sorry.

Here’s to one more night together and then, tomorrow, its snip-snip and au revoir, salama, nabad gelyo, go in peace.

By |November 5th, 2018|Categories: cancer|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Good Things, the Sixteenth. October 2018.

Taking note of one good thing every day. This month was hard and good. From Italy to New York, the Evolving Faith conference to meeting my two new nephews, all topped off with cancer, what a ride. Still, I’m thankful and here’s my monthly review of why.

1 bad news from the doctor, so what is the good thing? He is a good doctor and understands, since he grew up in South Africa, the international complications of my situation

2 happy birthday mom, let’s fly to Italy

3 the warmest possible welcome into the town and family of the subject of my book

4 speaking about Annalena Tonelli and a love that is stronger than fear to 250 Italian high school seniors

5 I’m in Italy and I’m not thinking about Kavanaugh or Ford. I’m thinking about sacrificial love, courageous service, and hard, hard work, about community and peace and hope

6 university lectures I can sort of follow (barely) in Italian

7 one last bowl of gelato before leaving Italy

8 flying home-ish

9 good news from the doctor after a second biopsy – probably it didn’t spread

10 picking up Tom at the airport, now we are in the same country for a few weeks, like regular married people

11 night photography class and city lights reflected off water

12 collecting red, orange, and yellow leaves

13 leaf-covered bridges

14 listening to live music with my husband and taste-testing beer (I never like beer but it does look pretty)

15 trampolining fun with the newest kid in my life, fun to play little kid games again and who doesn’t love a good trampoline bounce?

16 coffee with a woman I met on the airplane, never done that before, I’m a no-talker on planes, but enjoyed how our thoughts and live have traced similar trails in recent years

17 quick pre-op physical (because darn it all, other than the alien beast in my neck, I’m perfectly healthy)

18 talking with an expatriate who had to leave her job abroad because of health issues, she gets it

19 Jones family Halloween party complete with relay games, scavenger hunt, and eyeball spaghetti

20 watching my daughter work on an experiment in her chemistry lab at University, then hiking Gooseberry Falls on a gorgeous MN fall afternoon

21 my husband cooked a feast for me while I worked

22 long run, ran the whole time, maybe the last double digit run for a while

23 deep and vulnerable conversation about the broken places in our lives

24 meeting my two new nephews for the first time since they were adopted

25 adding another sister to the mix, in North Carolina

26 Evolving Faith Conference

27 Still. Evolving Faith Conference.

28 true community living, a radically upside down way of life and love

29 talking books and publishing and dreaming

30 250 high school students with open ears and hearts to a message about moving away from comfort, toward need

31 giving directions to a Somali couple, in Somali, in my little suburb. Laughing together and welcoming them to the neighborhood where all are welcome.

What are you thankful for?